Two years ago, Arriva
won some awards for their m-ticket solution. The concept was dead simple: a mobile app that displayed "dynamic" barcode image. Masabi offered a similar concept for the railway ticketing, but as barcode infrastructure did not spread much, being superseded
by contactless smart ticketing, Masabi went to the US in search of green pastures.
Arriva has since progressed further and recently announced a driver-friendly ticket interface so that tickets can be inspected, quicker and cheaper,
with a human eye rather than a barcode reader. The app shows ticket data - validity zone and validity period - as well as... a flashing border and a running clock. The latter two elements are there to provide "security", i.e. to prevent passengers from showing
to an unsuspecting driver a static image.
It took an unskilled person a few minutes to knock together a "dynamic" ticket - an animated GIF based on a couple of screenshots grabbed from
the Arriva's app. Surely, it doesn't show the correct running time, but you get the message.
It wouldn't take long a half-skilled app developer to re-create Arriva's interface to mimic those "security measures". Overworked migrant drivers would be giving m-tickets just a cursory glance anyway.
Considering that the cost of an annual m-ticket is around £800, and considering the demographics of passengers whom Arriva is targeting with m-tickets, how unlikely is such an "alternative" ticketing scenario?.. Not on mass scale, but still...
That is not to mention the key problem that all bus operators are facing: collection of the correct revenue (i.e. passengers travelling beyond the zone they are buying tickets for) - a simple app does not solve it.
The bottleneck of ticket sales/distribution is the weakest link which every mass transit operator has to deal with. Going "mobile" is tempting: the market is huge and growing - there are 6bn mobile phones and just 4bn toothbrushes in the world.
Yet, if the only tool you have is the hammer, everything around you looks like a nail. Perhaps a mobile phone is not the only (and not the best) tool for the job...